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Ensure at least 100 independent schools support academies or free schools 

Last updated: 10:40am 14 January 2019

We will work with the Independent Schools Council to ensure that at least 100 leading independent schools become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools in the state system, keeping open the option of changing the tax status of independent schools if progress is not made.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.50

Our verdict

In 2016 the previous government outlined plans on how independent (fee-paying or private) schools could assist state-funded schools. Independent schools receive significant tax breaks because they’re classed as charities, so people argue that they should help state-funded schools which might not be as well off. The government’s manifesto threatens to possibly remove this charitable status if independent schools don’t fulfil this obligation to assist those in the state system.

In September 2017, then Education Secretary Justine Greening spoke at an event hosted by the Independent Schools Council and called for more “partnership activities, sponsorship or setting up new free schools”. Around the same time, the Department for Education launched the System Partnership Unit, which negotiates partnerships between independent and state-funded schools.

Some media outlets interpreted the System Partnership Unit as a “U-turn” on the government’s manifesto pledge, saying that independent schools could now opt into their obligations on a more voluntary basis.

However, it is also possible to interpret the government’s actions as a continuing commitment to its manifesto pledge, so we’ll mark this policy as ‘in progress’ for now. To mark the policy ‘done’, we’ll be looking for concrete evidence that “at least 100” independent schools adopt academy sponsorship or help the founding of free schools by the end of the government’s term.

It’s worth noting that an Independent Schools Council report found some independent schools choosing to drop their charitable status (possibly as a result of this policy), so in terms of encouraging collaboration between the independent and state education sectors, the strategy may be backfiring.  Follow this policy for updates.

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